Chili Mac

Chili Mac

After a rocky start, laced with a few extra urgings of “Hurry up!”, a melt down over appropriate outfits for a snowstorm and a soggy schlep to the bus stop and then daycare, I was feeling more than usually frazzled this morning. I ended up lingering to chat with the Mum of one of Julian’s classmates. It was one of those conversations where you start talking about weather but end up belching out your deepest anxieties as a parent. Know what I’m talking about? Transitions from daycare to elementary school. Deciding which bizarre pre-school behaviour to support and which to curtail. How to raise bully-resistant kids. Colleen and I were shaking our heads about how you just can’t anticipate what parenthood will deliver to your door. (Oh, what’s that? A kid who cries when he has to wear pants? Sure, I’ll sign up for that.) But then she told me something that turned my morning around. And that I’ll be clinging to like a life raft in the future moments of self-doubt. Colleen said that when she feels she’s falling down as a parent she reminds herself of mid-century paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and his theory of the “good enough mother.” Winnicott believed children did best in an environment where parents were loving and attentive but not perfect. The thinking goes that there’s value to your kids in seeing parents make mistakes rather than fronting like they’ve got everything figured out. If that’s true then my kids will be juuuust fine. We keep well away from perfect in our house.

And this, my friends, is that theory rolled into a dinner. It’s the “good enough dinner.” It’s also probably the least sophisticated thing we’ve ever featured on SPC, but that’s part of its charm. You throw everything in a pot, let it simmer away, and about 20 minutes later you’ve got a really delicious satisfying dinner on the table. I’ve made this dish about 5 or 6 times in the last month and it’s a hit every time. It also makes a great lunch to go in a thermos the next day. Just don’t skimp on the cheese, you really want a good, gooey lid of cheddar on top to make it perfect. Well, don’t worry too much about making it perfect… just good enough.


photo by Maya Visnyei


Chili Mac


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red, yellow, orange or green pepper, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 x 28 oz. can of tomatoes
  • 1 x 19 oz. can of kidney beans
  • 1 cup wholewheat macaroni
  • 1 cup or so of grated cheddar cheese


In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown your meat.

Drain any excess fat from the pot.

Now add the onions, garlic and peppers and stir everything around.

Saute until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the spices and stir. Let the spices cook for a couple of minutes.

Drain the beans and add them to the pot.

Do not drain the tomatoes, however, you want all that juice!

Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes.

Now stir in the dried pasta.

Bring the pot to a simmer and let everything bubble away gently for about 15 minutes.

Taste to check the seasoning.

Serve each bowl with a generous handful of grated cheese


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  1. Louisa
    February 28, 13:51 Reply

    As a pescatarian, may I just say that I learned soooo much from this warm, valuable post. Thanks to both wise ladies involved for making my day if not my dinner!


  2. Sara
    February 28, 18:20 Reply

    Great one pot dish! It was gobbled up. Made it with veggie ground instead of beef. Delicious!

  3. Charlotte
    March 01, 07:25 Reply

    yummm, think i will be making this soon, with veggie mince too!

  4. nicole
    March 01, 15:32 Reply

    Great post. I never ever anticipated the unending parade of guilt and self-doubt I would feel as a mother until my son came along. So when a parent speaks with honesty about their own anxieties and imperfections, it’s deeply appreciated.

    As for the chili mac, for a few years now I’ve been making an even more low-brow version of that dish which unabashedly attempts to recreate the unctuous, meaty pleasure of Hamburger Helper (dried milk powder anyone?). Your version sounds four-star in comparison!

  5. Ceri
    March 01, 17:24 Reply

    Thanks to all of you for your lovely comments!

    Louisa, I’m so touched you check in here at SPC – love it when I see your name pop up!

    And Sara and Charlotte – I’ve never used veggie ground, is it soy? Glad to hear it was a hit with your crew.

    Nic! I know what you’re saying. When you’re pregnant you worry so much about chromosomes, etc, without realizing the real test will be over the kid that took your kid’s pizza money. (No joke, by the way) In any case, your version of Hamburger Helper sounds amazing and I wish I was having it for dinner tonight!

  6. Deane
    March 25, 09:43 Reply

    Ceri thanks so much for this recipe! I’ve made it twice now and my husband couldn’t even tell that I used whole wheat macaroni (a plus considering he vowed never to eat whole wheat pasta ever) – and he continued eating the dish! Also passed it on to my brother — delish!

  7. Deane
    March 25, 09:44 Reply

    The second time I made it, instead of using bell peppers, which a friend of mine has sensitivities to, replaced those with a zucchini, carrots (2) and a can of corn. Yum!

  8. Ceri
    March 25, 09:45 Reply

    I love it! Did you tell him once he’d cleaned his plate? I do think with whole wheat pastas you have to try a few brands to find one you like. We’re fans of Misura but it’s so personal. So glad it was a hit for you!!

  9. Deane
    April 18, 15:03 Reply

    Hi Ceri! I did tell my husband after he cleaned his plate that it was whole wheat (he couldn’t believe it) – and thanks for the tip about Misura, I will try that next!

  10. emily
    August 17, 22:54 Reply

    how much does this make? does it make a giant pot that I can eat off of for a week?

  11. Ceri
    August 19, 09:43 Reply

    Hi Emily,
    Yes, it makes a pretty big pot of Chili Mac. To be honest, I didn’t measure teh yield, but i have a large Dutch oven and it fills it. I’d say one person would get at least four servings out of it, maybe five. Let me know if you try it out!

  12. Maria
    September 23, 13:15 Reply

    Hi, quick question, do you need to cook the pasta beforehand and drain or add uncooked (raw)? I am not sure by what you mean dried pasta?

  13. Ceri Marsh
    September 23, 13:18 Reply

    Hi Maria,
    No, you just add the pasta into the pot with the tomatoes and beans and let them cook in that liquid. And I just meant dried (uncooked) pasta rather than fresh. Let me know how it goes. I’m making this today, too!

  14. Megan
    November 05, 12:29 Reply

    Hi there. It’s my first time on your website. I’d just been on Indigo’s site looking for book ideas for Christmas when I saw your’s. I’d also read about it in the food section of the Edmonton Journal. Congratulations! I am always looking for simple weekday supper ideas. My question is this: you say you can’t abide green peppers (me neither) but I’m also not a fan of the chunks of tomatoes left behind when using canned tomatoes. Could I instead substitute passata, otherwise known as strained pureed tomatoes? Would the recipe still work?

  15. Ceri
    November 05, 15:37 Reply

    Hi Megan,
    Thanks for your note! I’m so glad you found us!! I’ve never tried using passata with this recipe but I think it would work. Do you find even the chopped canned tomatoes too chunky? I sometimes use a potato masher to break them down. If you use passata you might need to add a bit of water – say 1/2 a cup – just to be sure there’s enough liquid for the pasta to drink up. Let me know how it goes, okay?
    And thanks again for reading!!


  16. Gigi
    November 27, 15:03 Reply

    This is a great recipe! The only thing I do change is the canned tomatoes. I use a can of diced tomatoes instead. Basically same thing only the tomatoes are diced and are easier to break up.

  17. Shelley
    January 27, 16:50 Reply

    It’s rather chilly today, so I thought I would give this chili a whirl!!
    Thanks for another wonderful recipe, Ceri.
    Congratulations to you & Laura on your very first cookbook! I am looking forward to giving it as gifts this year (:

    • Laura Keogh
      January 31, 11:01 Reply

      Let us know if you tried the chill, Shelley. Also, thank you so much for your well dishes. We so appreciate your support and, we may be biased, but we definitely thinks its a great gift idea for all holidays! Best, Laura

  18. Natasha
    February 03, 13:18 Reply

    Great recipe, & easy too!! Will be trying it tonight. Thanx!!

  19. Seanna
    February 18, 16:25 Reply

    I don’t know if you saw my post on your FB page, but I made this a couple of weeks ago, and posted a photo to Instagram. I tagged the photo #todaysparent because I found your recipe through a weekly emai from their magazine, and I just found out today that they’re using my photo on the Instagram page of their March digital edition!! BTW, the food was fabulous, and I’ve already heard rave reviews from a friend who made this for her family, too! Thanks!

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